While visiting St. Thomas's
The first plaque reads,
MARY SEACOLE / Nurse of the Crimean War / 1805 - 1881 / Wherever the need arises / on whatever distant shore / [there is?] no higher or greater privilege / than to minister to it
The plaque behind the disc backing the statue of Mary reads,
THIS BRONZE DISC BEARS AN IMPRESSION / OF THE GROUND TAKEN FROM THE SITE IN CRIMEA / WHERE JAMAICAN NURSE MARY SEACOLE MINISTERED / TO BRITISH SOLDIERS DURING THE WAR OF 1853 - 1856
I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick / who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them and who / performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead
SIR WILLIAM HOWARD RUSSELL, WAR CORRESPONDENT, THE TIMES 1857
I guess that means I'd better photograph the reverse next time I'm passing in case that is relevant, although the disc surface visible behind Mary in the first image could fit the bill. I didn't realise the significance until I processed the images on 22nd August.
Quote from an angry Guardian
Sculptor defends his Mary Seacole statue: 'If she was white, would there be this resistance?'
Everything in Martin Jennings’ Oxfordshire studio is just so. From the wall of industrial shelving – housing neat rows of hammers, chisels, gloves and goggles – to the way its west flank opens up, allowing tall statues out and the summer daylight in. Tea is made in mugs commemorating his most high-profile works, which include Charles Dickens, John Betjeman, Philip Larkin and Ronnie Barker. His next commission is George Orwell, who will be standing guard outside Broadcasting House. White men, the lot of them.
Until recently, Jennings had made only one full-size female memorial statue, a US admiral called Grace Murray Hopper. But this month, he’ll be unveiling two monuments to women: the wartime Sheffield steel workers, and the woman whose face is gracing my mug today: Crimean war heroine Mary Seacole. This last will be the first named memorial statue of a black woman in the UK.
From the end of June, Seacole will be outside St Thomas’s Hospital in London, striding purposefully towards the Houses of Parliament across the river, cape billowing behind. The ground behind will be inscribed with an 1857 quote from Sir William Howard Russell, then war correspondent of the Times: “I trust that England will not forget one who nursed the sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”
One would usually expect a statue like this, says Jennings, “to have its funds raised within two years”. But it has been a seven-year slog. Her cause was not helped by a small but vocal campaign against the project, by self-appointed protectors of Florence Nightingale’s legacy. Meanwhile, Michael Gove fuelled further doubt about Seacole’s place in history, when he attempted to remove her from the national curriculum in 2013. Some quarters of the media egged him on, calling her presence in history books political correctness gone mad. In the end, Gove relented, reportedly after pressure from Nick Clegg, and a petition with 35,000 names.
“Mary Seacole is an unsung heroine,” says Baroness Amos, director of the School of Oriental and African Studies and a member of the committee that selected Jennings. “A Jamaican businesswoman, traveller and healer who wanted to go to Crimea to help treat the wounded and save lives, but was refused by the authorities. Rather than accept defeat, she went independently using her own money.” theguardian.com
Quote from an interview with the artist by Neeta Borah, January 2008.
When he wins a commission he researches the local history and the community for whom the art is intended. He looks for uplifting themes – not didactic but inspiring – and he matches the loose brief to an idea, a spark. His own favourite, in terms of satisfaction he said, would have to be the Arc of Angels in Portishead. That was one of four pieces that were commissioned for what was once an awful brownfield site where a power station once stood. The Portishead Angels, as it has come to be known, stands in the middle of what is now a public park and local people have taken it to their hearts. It was the trigger that started off a stream of commissions for sculptures up and down the country.
I tell him that his sculpture outside Guy’s and St Thomas’s entitled “Crossing the Divide” reminds me of Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel of God and Adam. He says no one else had drawn that comparison before but agreed that in the periphery that influence was there. It is after all a part of the mental cultural baggage we carry. He said the sculpture represents a helping hand and also trust and relationship on several levels - between patient and healer, the NHS Trust and the medical team and the joining of Guy’s and St Thomas’s. rickkirby.com
Quote from IanVisits, a winning combination of information, brevity and editorial.
This rather weather-worn statue of King Edward VI sits somewhat uncomfortably outside the municipal tiled wall of St Thomas Hospital.
The statue was commissioned back in 1681 by the Governors of St Thomas’ Hospital to adorn the gateway to their old hospital near to London Bridge. They ordered that Mr. Thomas Cartwright, mason carry out the carving, which was costed at £190. The choice of Edward VI was thanks to his capacity as re-founder of St Thomas’ Hospital after its closure by his father, Henry VIII. King Edward VI was moved to restore the hospital thanks to a well-timed sermon given when the King was in attendance at church by Ridley, Bishop of London in 1552. He agreed to the restoration of St. Thomas, for the relief of the lame and sick. The hospital limped on rather badly for while they had the King’s support, they didn’t have his wallet. It wasn’t until the late 17th century by when the hospital was in a very poor state that funds were raised for an upgrade and expansion.
In 1862 the hospital was forced to move to Lambeth by the arrival of the railways, and the statue erected in the centre of the riverside colonnade. It was moved to its current, rather neglected location in 1976. ianvisits.co.uk